I wrote a few months ago about potentially running the Charleston Marathon. It was a spontaneous idea and one which I did not put much thought into. Running a marathon has always been on my bucket list, but I never knew what it would actually take to complete one. Training for it was not very much fun, nor was the race itself, but I do enjoy running intermediate distances, in fair, warm weather, when I’m well rested, and it’s not too windy.... and when I have good music. I’m not too particular, I just enjoy all the pizza and beer an active livestyle allowes me to eat and drink.
I signed up for the race early on, because with a $100 entry fee, I knew that would be my main motivation. Indeed it was, because every time I felt like quitting, I just reminded myself that I am in fact, not made of money, and I was going to finish that race if it was the death of me.
It just so happened, that on the morning of the race, the temperature decided to take a little dip, and it was a “brisk” 34 degrees at the starting line. Needless to say, I could not feel my hands before the gun even sounded. The race started at Burke Middle School, rounded the peninsula to the battery, and then so far up King St. there were places I had never even been before. After about 9 miles, I began to zone out and just stared at the 4 to 6 feet of monotonous asphault in front of me. I remember thinking to myself, "why are you doing this, this is not fun." It was a test. I wanted to see if I could do it.
There were multiple stretches of the route that lapped back over itself, so at first, when you would turn onto that part of the road, you would only see the most extreme runners LEAVING that part. By extreme runners, I mean the ones with those weird arm sleeves and special sunglasses and super short running shorts and, well, the ability to run 26 miles very very quickly. I always knew I was coming to the turn around point because the runners started looking less special and more like what I’m sure I looked like: haggard, weary, and in sweaty, aggravating pain but defiant to end because they too, were not about to waste $100.
Every few miles, there were tables with water, Gatorade, bananas and sometimes even those little packets of gel that long distance runners apparently use for a surge of energy. I swiped a packet off a table and after opening it with my teeth due to the finger numbing cold, I took a little taste.
It was disgusting. It was like a thicker, fruity tasting honey from cold hell. Combined with the banana and Gatorade I had just inhaled, the cold, sticky goo almost brought those other snacks back out to party. I threw the packet away and resumed my slow and steady wins, or at least finishes, the race technique.
Towards the end of the race, around mile 24, my knees were starting to bother me, and overall fatigue had set in. I looked up to see a kid of no more than 10 or 12 years old ahead of me. I thought, "no way was a child going to beat me at this race." I dug in deep and geared up to run him down for at least one victory for the day, but that kid had eaten his Wheaties. He had a lead on me and left me in his dust. Nothing like a dose of humble pie to remind me that there are elementary school aged children that can not only run faster than I can, but do it consistantly for over 26 miles.
My final time was 4:32. I ran, or what I liked to call running, for over 4 hours and now, even as I write this, almost 4 days later, I’m still walking down stairs like I just had my hip replaced. I went straight from the finish line to the beer table and redeemed my two tickets. Even though it was still very chilly, those cold, probably Keystone or Natty Lite, plastic cups of beer never tasted so good. My victory dance. I'm glad I participated. It was learning experience, especially about myself and I can now scratch off “ran a marathon” from the bucket list. Up next on the list is leaning how to count cards and beating Kobayashi in a hot dog eating contest.